Heart surgery can turn out to be a stressful situation for everyone. Accurate knowledge regarding your heart’s condition, lowering risks of the surgery, what to expect from the procedure, and aftercare can help decrease your fear.
This article explains 7 vital things that you should know before you commence your heart surgery.
1. What is Heart bypass surgery?
Coronary artery bypass surgery or Heart bypass surgery is directed to bypass one or more damaged or blocked arteries in your heart with a blood vessel graft to restore normal blood flow to the heart. It focuses to create a new pathway as well as divert the flow of blood around a blocked or damaged artery in your heart, thus improving blood flow to your heart muscle. The blood vessel graft which is used in the surgery is mostly taken from your arm (radial), leg (saphenous) or chest (internal thoracic or internal mammary).
It is also called coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) and is one of the most common types of heart surgeries done globally.
2. Why is it done?
This surgery is carried out to relieve symptoms, such as chest pain, irregular heartbeat and shortness of breath, caused by the buildup of fatty deposits or plaque in your coronary arteries. Coronary arteries supply oxygen-rich blood to your heart and these fatty deposits might block your arteries, restricting smooth blood flow. It can also lead to the formation of clots or thrombosis that may cause a heart attack. Coronary artery disease can occur due to a diet which is high in saturated fats, smoking, sedentary lifestyle, obesity, uncontrolled diabetes, high blood pressure and a family history of heart disease.
3. How do you prepare yourself for the procedure?
Your doctor can give you the best source of information. Talk with him about:
- The correct time to go for the surgery
- Why do you need to opt for the surgical procedure
- Your disease
- What you can expect prior or during or after the surgery
- Any medicines you should avoid or any medicines you need to take before the procedure
- Family history
- Your allergies
- Any other questions you may have related to your surgery
Your surgeon will give you a specific set of instructions that will assist you to prepare for your surgery.
4. Things you should take utmost care of prior to your surgery
Plan your surgery so that it doesn’t affect your work by calculating the time of your surgery, hospital stay and recovery time. Do not take any drugs without the consent of your doctor, especially aspirin as it has a blood-thinning effect which might cause bleeding complications. Also, consult your doctor before stopping any medication. At least two weeks prior to the surgery you have to quit smoking . Smoking is one of the major risk factors for heart disease and also extends the recovery time. Go for a dental checkup as certain oral bacteria can complicate your heart surgery. Get your blood pressure and diabetes examined to know if they are in the normal range or not.
5. Tests need to be done a few days prior to the surgery
- Complete blood count (CBC): A low blood count can notify your doctor to prepare for a blood transfusion in advance.
- Prothrombin time (PT) and thromboplastin time (PTT) values: These blood tests measure the blood’s bleeding and clotting time. These tests show revised values in presence of any bleeding or clotting disorders and also if you’re on blood-thinning medications like aspirin.
- Chest X-ray: To assess the shape and size of your aorta and heart.
- Cardiac catheterization: This test is carried out to identify the location of blockages in your coronary arteries that will help your doctor in planning your surgery.
- Other tests, such as kidney and liver function tests to alter the health of these organs.
6. Risks correlated with a bypass surgery.
- Formation of blood clots
- Wound infection: More common in diabetic and obese patients
- Breathing problems
- Kidney failure
- Irregular heartbeat
- Injury to blood vessels and nerves
- Heart attack or stroke
7. Recovery following your surgery
Bypass surgery demands you to stay for about a week in the hospital after the procedure for observation. Bypass surgery is an invasive procedure and may have a long recovery period. Normal recovery period ranges from four to six weeks and further depends on your general health.
Take care of your incision wound and look out for any signs of swelling, redness or drainage from the wound. Your doctor may prescribe you pain medicines, anti-arrhythmics, and anti-coagulants after the surgery. Its important that you avoid stress and any situation that may make you anxious. Eat a healthy and balanced diet, cut the intake on sugar, salt, and fats from your diet, avoid alcohol and quit smoking for fast recovery. Consult your doctor before heading back with your daily activities or going to work.
You have to make some lifestyle changes and follow the medications prescribed by your doctor to prevent yourself from another blockage.